In the four years since Los Angeles-based alternative band OK Go released an album, much has changed in their musical landscape. The creative masterminds rather publically left their major label, Capitol Records, opting instead to operate under their own imprint, Paracadute. Hungry Ghosts, only the band’s fourth LP in its 16-year career, is actually the first full-length OK Go album released on its own label (2012’s Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky was initially released on Capitol Records and re-released three months later on Paracadute). As such, Hungry Ghosts represents a sense of defiant independence and refute of traditional professional and musical paths.
Most strikingly, Hungry Ghosts draws upon electronic influences more so than OK Go’s three previous releases. Tracks without heavy synths are rare, and even scarcer are the wild, glitchy guitar solos from Andy Ross. This modern production—courtesy of producer/engineer Dave Fridmann (and Tony Hoffer on the Michael Jackson-esque “I Won’t Let You Down”)—weighs heavily on Hungry Ghosts. Frontman Damian Kulash’s vocals twist and morph into echoed tracks of itself on “Upside Down & Inside Out” while a keyboard rhythm straight out of any ‘80s hair metal song clambers underneath. Warbling bass synths rumble on “Another Set of Issues,” while the slinking, seductive “Obsession” buzzes with shallow cymbal hits before the cowbells and wooden block percussion breakdown.
While musically dissimilar to previous efforts, OK Go maintain their place as creative heavyweights of the music industry with Hungry Ghosts. They successfully fundraised the album through PledgeMusic (thanks to frequent video updates and clever, personalized benefits for fans funding the project) and enough to donate 2 percent of their earnings to the nonprofit Future of Music Coalition. Additionally, the video for lead single “The Writing on the Wall,” created with the help of New York-based production company 1stAveMachine, has already notched more than 11 million views of its perspective-shifting ruse in true OK Go-form. Hungry Ghosts may not be the musical evolution that fans sought after four years, but OK Go’s bold pursuits of creativity in all media remain exciting still.